In the time of Doctor Johnson, Fanny Burney, the daughter of a noted musician, and lady-in-waiting to the Queen, gathered out of her experience of London society materials for her “Evelina,” a novel of manners shrewdly observed and acutely chronicled. She is the chief predecessor of Scott’s contemporary and rival, Jane Austen, the daughter of a provincial clergyman, whose knowledge of the world was practically confined to the county in which she lived and the watering places, like Bath, where she spent an occasional vacation. But she had tact enough to confine her books〖E.g., “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Emma.” For a satire on the Gothic Romance, cf. her “Northanger Abbey.”〗 to the life she knew; and this life, with its squires, its curates, its old ladies, its managing mothers and eligible daughters, is pictured with a minuteness and fidelity that has scarcely been surpassed. She writes smoothly, with an evasiveness in her characteristic irony that makes her personality hard to grasp, while it prevents that personality from coming between the picture and the spectator. Limited in scope, commonplace in incident, and deliberately ordinary in type of characters, her novels have the exquisite finish and perfection of a miniature.

Parallel in some respects to Miss Austen’s novels of English provincial life are Miss Edgeworth’s,〖E.g., “Castle Rackrent,” and “The Absentee.”〗 dealing with the Irish, and Miss Ferrier’s〖E.g., “Marriage.”〗 with the Scottish field. Together these ladies stand at the head of that still vigorous branch of fiction which in America is mapping the life of the whole country with sectional novels, like those of New England by Miss Jewett, Miss Wilkins, and Mrs. Riggs, of the South by James Lane Allen, George W. Cable, and Thomas Nelson Page, of the Middle West by Meredith Nicholson and Booth Tarkington.

All Directories